Climbing to the top of local language search

Climbing to the Top of Local Language Search

72.5 percent of worldwide consumers use search engines to find what they need online.

50 percent of users start by entering a keyword or phrase into the search engines.

Searchers scan an average of just 3.9 results, reading just 140 words, and taking 6.4 seconds before they click.

What do these statistics tell us? Well for starters, we’ve gone way beyond our remit in terms of research for this post. But that’s a good thing, because you’re about to benefit from some actionable tips that can help your website climb to the top of local language search.

The good news

Assuming you already have an English language website, the good news is that the majority of foreign language keywords are not as competitive as they are here in the UK. In much of Europe for example, acquiring top rankings for the Italian or Spanish equivalent of ‘bedside tables’, ‘car hire’ or ‘palatial hamster cages’ will not take as much time or require the same level of concerted effort as here in the UK. There’s simply less competition.

The bad news

Wherever you are, success in the search engines results pages does not come for free. You need a certain amount of technical wherewithal to tick all the relevant boxes. As you can see from the statistics above, searchers scan an average of just 3.9 results, taking 6.4 seconds before they click. So, the chances are, if you’re not in the top four search engine rankings, your website will simply not be seen.

The fix

The worst case scenario is that you go to the expense of transcreating your 30 page website into beautiful Italian, or Portuguese, or Vietnamese, only to attract a measly 10 visitors a month through organic search. You’ve put on an all expenses paid party but forgotten to invite the guests. Every party needs guests as much as every website needs traffic. Here’s how to solve this pesky little problem.

1. Align your keywords to your target locales and put them where it matters

It’s not enough to translate your English keywords literally and hope for the best. In the above example, there may be a more common used term to describe the item of furniture we know as a ‘bedside table’ in your target language. A professional translation team (like us!) will be able to help you identify the terms that resonate with each of your target locations.

Once you have a solid list of the most popular searched for terms, it’s then time to put them where it matters, namely, in your meta data, and sprinkled liberally throughout your content. Here’s a handy guide to help you get it right.

2. Use a country code top level domain

Whilst this might sound dauntingly technical, it’s not. This simply refers to the suffix that follows your website’s URL in the address bar, so while the English version of your website might be a .co.uk, your French site will be a .fr.

Country-specific domains are one of the most effective methods of making sure your website is found by the right people. It clearly indicates that each website is intended for a particular audience. The search engines then rank sites more favourably in particular countries. Here’s a simple explanation from Google.

3. Dig a little deeper into Webmaster Tools

Google’s Webmaster Tools is an essential bit of kit for any website owner. It helps you keep tabs on your website’s performance and identify any underlying problems. However, it also has an added bonus for multilingual websites, allowing users to select a target location for each of their websites.

The process itself is pretty straightforward. You simply go into your dashboard and target a location for your website. This effectively tells the search engine which region your website is intended for. This works most effectively in tandem with country specific domains as discussed in point 2. Without these top level domains in place, targeting a single .com website at one location would limit your audience rather than target it more effectively.

4. Avoid duplicate content penalties

The hreflang tag might look and sound like gobbledegook, but it can play an important part in your multilingual SEO efforts. Quite simply, this attribute tag tells the Google algorithm that “this page has been translated into a specific language”. Again, it’s all about giving the search engines as much information as possible, helping them effectively prioritise the right website for a particular region.

This can even work for two versions of the same website, written in the same language but for two separate regions. For example, you may have separate sites for UK and US markets. They will both be written in the same language, but one might be slightly more ‘bodacious’ than the other. In this case, even if the content is very similar, the pages tagged with the appropriate language attribute will be boosted in the rankings for searches in that target country. This will also help you avoid any nasty duplicate content penalties.

And there you have it – to the top of the search engines you go! And if you need any help with any of the associate translating and transcreating work, just give us a shout and we’ll be more than happy to help.